Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to thread something through a casing

I know this may be a little elementary for some folks, but I have been inspired to explain some simpler, beginner concepts for those that are just starting out.  So many blogs, pattern companies, DIY tutorials, etc assume that the reader has a basic knowledge of the subject matter when giving explanations.  I do it too.  Its essential, otherwise we would be bogged down in 100 page long explanations of how to do things.  However, I got to thinking: f no one ever showed ME how to do it, I wouldn't know how.  Based on that, I decided to start posting some simple explanations of basic concepts.  For starters they will probably be sewing related since that is honestly what I am best at, but hopefully I will get some inspiration to do other genres as well, like cooking and such.  If I ever get any readers or *gasp* even a subscriber or two, I would love to take requests.   Even if it is something I don't know how to do, I promise to give it a shot.  We can learn together!

Threading a ribbon/elastic/other through a casing:
I will start by assuming the casing is already stitched.  There are many ways to make a casing, so I am reluctant to broach that subject here for brevity's sake.  A casing (if done properly) will always have at least one opening, often two.  I am using the casing from my changing table cover project as the example here.  Since the ultimate goal of this casing is to completely enclose the elastic, there is only one opening.

To begin, you will need a safety pin that will fit through the casing.  They come in many sizes, including ridiculously small to get in those hard to reach places!  Take the safety pin and pin it through the end of the ribbon or elastic you are threading through the casing.  You will want to pass the pin to the back and then to the front again, piercing the item twice.  This gives it more material to grab on to which will prevent the material from ripping.  Don't do this too close to the end if you are using a very delicate ribbon or cord as it will encourage fraying and ripping.  If your ribbon or whatever is REALLY delicate, consider using a piece of tape or a dab of hot glue to reinforce the end, or fold the end in half and then pin through all the material.  If the elastic/ribbon rips while you are threading it through, you will have to start over and fish the safety pin out of the middle of the casing which is annoying at best.

Next, point the end of the safety pin through one opening of the casing.  It shouldn't matter which one unless there are special circumstances for your project that you need one end of something on one side and one end on the other, like a belt.  Holding the safety pin in your hand, push the safety pin through the casing, scrunching up the fabric as you go.  Push the safety pin as far as you can without letting it slip back, then let the bunched up fabric go behind the safety pin.  Pull the gathers out by letting more ribbon thread through the casing.  This will make it easier as you go, especially once you get to the end.


...Then pull.
Continue pushing the safety pin through a little at a time and pulling the ribbon or whatever through.  Be careful not to twist the ribbon, as it is really hard to undo once it is inside the casing.  Also, if you are threading a small amount of something through a long casing, you may consider pinning the other end of the elastic to the opening or to another part of the project so it doesn't accidentally slip through as well.  If the other end slips in, you can sometimes recover it, but often it means starting over, AFTER you finish threading it through and can pull the whole piece out again.  Not fun. :-)  Once you reach the other end, pull the end out a few inches so it doesn't slip back in, unpin the safety pin, and adjust the gathers evenly across the length of the ribbon or elastic.  If you are enclosing the elastic as in my project, stitch the ends of the elastic together and then stitch the casing closed.  If not, tie the ends together or fasten them down so they don't slip back inside.  Voila!  You are done!

I safety pinned my ends together until I could machine sew them.
Its really that simple.  My hand position in my photos is not the best for working, but I am right handed and can't snap photos with my left, so my left hand is just holding stuff in place.  Use whatever techniques prove easiest for you, but I like to think of mine as an "inchworm" scrunching a small amount over the safety pin with my left hand, then pulling it over with my right.  With practice, this will start to go very quickly!  Good luck!

Monday, September 26, 2011


What a week!  Hubby and I have had a terrible cold and I haven't had the time or the energy to post.  I did a despicable thing and BOUGHT a gift for someone last week as I was too sick and lackluster to make something.  I should be ashamed.  But it happens to the best of us once in a while, doesn't it?  Besides, it was a wedding for hubby's friends and I never know how much they will appreciate the handmade approach.  Sometimes they think its me being cheap (which it partially is, I will admit, but far from my main motivation) instead of me trying to be anti-consumerism and make them something beautiful and useful.  So this post got sidetracked pretty quickly.  My point was, nothing got done last week and I didn't have time to post what we did the weekend BEFORE. :-)

So, Hubby and I decided to dive right in and paint the nursery (which is still half my craft room, sorry baby).  It involved moving all the furniture and its overflowing contents (craft room, remember?) out and back in in the space of 2 days.  Yikes.  We had long ago picked out the colors and so we bought paint late that week to spur us into action.  Much to my dismay, hubby picked expensive paint, but oh well.  Its his way of nesting I suppose.  We used Benjamin Moore Aura paint in Key Lime and Lemon Meringue.  Sounds delicious.

First, we moved out all the contents of everything, then the actual furniture.  We also had to take all the hardware etc off the walls, which took a good long time in itself.  I was in charge of outlet and switchplate covers (read: easy).  Hubby did the shelving, curtains, and TV mount.  I had already taken out the guest bed, but we had to move out the mattress and box spring.  We decided to keep them since we plan to use it again in a few years and mattresses are an expensive investment!  So we bought plastic sheeting used for drop cloths and wrapped them up with duct tape.  Into the garage they went.  The only thing we couldn't move was a huge desk that required disassembling and taking off doors to move.  We used it as our "painting table" and left it in the center of the room.  As for everything else, what a mess in our living room!

Then, we decided to vacuum the walls with a shop vac rather than wash them.  I have always washed walls with water and a little ammonia in the past to make sure the paint sticks and there are no major goopy/greasy spots or anything, but since this was flat paint (not semigloss) and since hubby's place is practically spotless, I opted for the quick and easy solution.  Took care of all those nasty spiders and their homes, too.

Then, we masked.  and masked.  and masked.  We used a whole huge roll of painter's tape (the blue stuff) to go around all the doors and closet doors, air vents, ceilings, baseboards, and the huge window.  Just a note from me to you, I like leaving my tape sticking out on the baseboards instead of folding it down.  It catches drips when it sticks out.  everywhere else doesn't really matter, but because its on the ground, molding tends to get the worst of the drips.  it also allows a little margin to shove your dropcloths under.  We got a great little cosco stepladder that totally came in handy.  It was well worth the $50 at Ace.  Hubby did all the high painting while I did the low because he was afraid of me being on the stepladder.  Course, I did all the ceiling masking, but whatever makes him happy...  The paint wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good.

Green and Yellow meet. Coincidentally, also Packer colors. Indoctrination begins early in this house.
Since we didn't finish till about 12:30 that morning, the next day we came in to take a look.  We had gone thin in a few spots because the lighting was so bad, but all in all, it looked pretty darn good!  We had planned to do a second coat, but since it already looked pretty good, we decided it wasn't worth the effort for such a small gain in aesthetics.  The spots we went thin on were really low or really high on the wall anyway, and would either be hard to see from the floor or covered with furniture. So we stuck a fork in it!

We yanked off all the masking, put the hardware back on the walls, and cleaned up all the little spills and such.  We finally got to assemble our crib and put it in there as well.  Since I got it on craigs list and we had been storing it in the garage for a few months, it was dirty, so I spent a good long time cleaning the heck out of it.  I was a little obsessed, but hey, its my future offspring we are talking about here!  By this point, I was absolutely wiped out, and poor dear Hubby got stuck putting all the furniture and contents back in the room by himself.

Here is how it looks now.  Since we were sick I haven't put everything back in its proper place and we have nothing on the walls yet (including the shelves that used to be up because I want to move them, I just don't know where yet).  It still looks pretty good, though.  A little disheveled, but that will change with time (and then revert once baby is born no doubt).

Now to replace those curtains...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Making a small, simple wet bag

After doing so much research on making a wet bag or two for myself, I decided to dive in.  Unwilling to wait for or pay for shipping, I decided to gamble on PUL from Joann's.  It gets mixed reviews as to its quality, and I am a little skeptical about how well it will hold up, but because I can buy it at half off with coupons and not pay exorbitant shipping prices like I would have to online, I figured, why not?

And thus I began my first wet bag.  Since I am kind of making up the design as I go, I decided to try something medium sized and simple for the first attempt.  I wanted it to be useful, but it doesn't have to have all the bells and whistles I ultimately want just yet.

I also realized that for all my other posts, I don't actually give materials lists before I start explaining.  Maybe I should start?

Materials Needed:
about 1/2 yard of PUL or other waterproof, sewable fabric
1 14" zipper
sewing machine with a standard zipper foot

For my first step, I admittedly screwed up.  I wanted to make a bag that was roughly 14"x18".  Well, I cut a strip of fabric that was 15" wide out of the 60" wide PUL.  Then, almost without thinking, I cut it in half on the fold line from the bolt.  Leaving me with a roughly 15"x30" piece which folded in half and seamed would give me at best a 14"x14" bag.  Oops.  Well, this is my rough draft, right?  If YOU want to make the correct size bag, cut a long rectangle 15"x38".  Note that it will look just a bit different from my photos, though :-).

Since PUL has two sides, the fabric side and the side with the laminate on it, I decided to keep the soft, fabric side out and leave the laminate side to the inside so it didn't stick to or snag on anything.  You can choose to do whatever you please.  I have another piece of PUL with a pattern on it that has writing, so this wouldn't work for that, but like I said, this is my test run.

Now that we established the right side of the fabric from the wrong, fold over 1" of fabric on one short end of the rectangle with wrong sides together.  Stitch close to the raw edge, about 1/4".

Put the zipper foot on your machine.  If it is not already, close the zipper.  With right sides together and raw edges even, stitch the zipper to the other short end of the fabric.  The zipper pull should be facing toward the right side of the fabric, and you should be sewing along the top half of the zipper.  Center the zipper left and right across the fabric if the ends of the zipper tape hang over too much or don't quite meet the ends of the fabric.  This wont matter too much later, but it will look more symmetrical if you center it a little.  Stitch the zipper tape to the fabric close to the zipper teeth.  (Random Tip for sewing around the zipper pull: If you finish off your stitching when you get close to the zipper pull, open the zipper, and then restart your line of stitching an inch or so back to finish it off, you will not have an awkward bulge where the zipper foot has to go around the bulky pull.  This will lend a cleaner look to your finished product.)  Turn the zipper to the outside so the right side is showing next to the right side of the fabric and the raw edge is folded under.  Press if your fabric can handle the heat of an iron (I didn't chance it on my PUL).  If not, just hold it down during the following steps.

This view the zipper tape is open.  The teeth are toward the bottom of the photo.

Next, with wrong side to right side, lap the folded over short end over the zippered end, making sure that zipper is facing up.  Overlap the edges by 1/4" past the edge of the zipper so the folded over end hides the zipper.  Make sure the raw edges of the fabric (the long sides) are in line with each other. Place a pin just inside the zipper stop on both ends of the zipper. I found it helpful to place a pin on both sides of the zipper stops just to keep the sides from wiggling as I began to stitch.  Stitch from the raw edge of the fabric through all layers to the second pin on both sides (you should stitch PAST the zipper stop).  You should only have about 1" or so of stitching.  This is correct.  Reinforce if you like with another line of stitching over it or 1/4" above.

Your wet bag should now look like a loop.  Turn the loop inside out.  You should now be able to see the wrong side of the fabric and the wrong side of the zipper.  Take the unstitched side of the zipper and pin it to the folded over end of the fabric, keeping the raw edge of the fabric parallel to the edge of the zipper tape, but leaving an even amount of space across between the edges.  This amount of space will vary based on how far you overlapped the folded edge over the zipper on the right side.  Stitch it closed using your zipper foot.

The last step is to sew the side seams.  I debated a lot on how to tackle this part since I want my wet bag to be reasonably leakproof without being too work intensive.  I finally decided to encase the seams, using a french seam.  This is not a standard seam, so if you have not sewn a lot in the past, this may seem weird at first.  Trust me, it will all work out!

Turn the loop right side out again.  Flatten out the loop, matching the raw edges along the sides.  Place the zippered area about 1 1/2" down the "front" of the bag.  With WRONG sides together, stitch a scant 1/4" from the raw edge on both sides.  Keeping this line of stitching as close to the raw edge as possible is critical.  If you sew it too wide, trim it to 1/4" before the next step.

Unzip the bag and turn it inside out.  Carefully turn all the corners and side seams.  Again, press if your fabric can handle it, otherwise, just pin very carefully in the next step.  Pin the fabric along the side seams to the inside of the raw edges, enclosing them on the inside.  This should be roughly 1/4"-3/8" away from the side.  Stitch.  If you are having trouble with the thickness of your fabric being too bulky on the one side, you can use your zipper foot to sew these seams.  Basically, you are creating a pocket to hide that raw edge that we left on the outside.  This is a french seam.  Hooray!  Don't you feel Eurpoean fancy now?  If you have trouble with the PUL sticking to the presser foot or to the feeder foot, try pinning some tissue paper to the seam and sewing through it.  You can just tear it off once the stitching is in.

Turn your bag right side out again.  You are done!

You have successfully made a simple (ish) version of a wet bag.  And guess what?  The design is way better than most of the ones commercially available, so it is less likely to leak.  Well, I hope so at least.  I am testing it out with wet wash clothes.  Fingers crossed.

Bottom Line:
1/2 yard of PUL @ $10/yd with 50% off coupon = $2.50 (since I screwed up I actually will be making 2 from this, but had I followed my original design, I would have used more.)
1- 14" zipper = $2

Time estimate = Approx 2-3 hrs (I took a lot of time on design and did a fair amount of ripping out stitches, so its hard to know exactly.)

Retail cost = $15 on average.  Some small, cheapy drawstring ones are about $7, some are $25.
Total cost to make = $4.50

Savings = approx $10

Not too bad.  And I didn't even make you use a serger for this one!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Food slicer fun

I think I mentioned that I like kitchen gadgets.  Well, the newest one in my repertoire is my food slicer.  It is a totally fluffy, unnecessary kitchen gadget, but holy crap has it proven its usefulness.  I was a little skeptical at first, driven away by high prices and bad reviews.  But hubby and I were at JC Penney the other day and I decided to go ahead and take the plunge (on sale of course) for around $55.

I have long had a v-slicer (a cheapy version of a mandoline) which essentially does the same thing, but did not have an adjustable blade, has a much narrower blade, and takes a lot more muscle.  The v-slicer faced some serious limitations.  For one, I had to cut things down to make them fit the limited width of the blade.  One of my favorite dishes is French Onion Soup, and slicing 3 lbs of onions into 1/8" slices with a knife with ANY kind of consistency is near impossible, not to mention the strain on your tear ducts.  A v-slicer makes this much easier, but large red onions are too big to fit in the handle or over the blade, forcing me to cut them in half, which ruins the aesthetics of my soup (I never claimed to be sane), not to mention, an onion cut in half tends to pop out its inner rings, making wrangling the things even harder.  Another, more significant limitation was its inability to cut things like meat and cheese.  For anything that caused major friction across the blade, it took more force than I was able to give it to get a slice, and even if I did manage, they came out all wrinkled up and uneven.  And of course, because I did not have a true mandoline, my slice width was not adjustable.  Rather than spend $70 for a nice mandoline that still suffered from the first two limitations, I decided to try a cheap version of an electric slicer.

I got the Cook's brand from JC Penney (their house brand I believe) because it was on sale and I saw it on display and it looked reasonably sturdy and useful.  It adjusts from about 1/8"-5/8" slices, and is on a dial, so although each number on the dial corresponds to a 1/8" increment, it can do anything in between as well.  I think if I tested it with something a little more sturdy I could even get less than 1/8", but I have not tried with success yet.  To test it out, I made French onion soup which requires the aforementioned sliced red onions as well as sliced swiss cheese for the yummy broiled topping. I didn't try slicing the baguette that is also used for the soup since it is cut on the bias and would be a pain to keep even in the slicer and I only needed 4 pieces, but bread is supposedly sliceable as well.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are my results:

Beautiful, even slices.  Quick, simple operation.  It worked like a champ.  I had all the onions done before the butter foamed in my dutch oven.  I had all the cheese done before I even thought about it.  And of course, I was jumping up and down, squealing with joy at how cool it was the whole while.  Poor hubby... Intrigued, I tried it on some provolone I had wanted to slice for sandwiches.

Cutting the round food was a little harder, but other than some slightly jagged edges, I couldn't see any fault with them, either.  I wanted to try it on some meat, but I didn't have anything handy, so I will have to post again with some ham and roast beef.

All was not perfect, though.  There is some waste for each item you cut, because the slicer cannot get in that last slice very well (that's the one you lose fingers on with a knife).  Also, because the back of the slicer is made of silver plastic and not metal, it flexes under pressure and can make some uneven slices, although it was well within the limit of acceptability for me.  This did result in awkward shaped rinds left over though.  The v-slicer has the same issue, so I wasn't too dismayed.  I also did have a little problem keeping even pressure on the pusher so that it fed evenly without bending that plastic piece back too much. I needed an extra hand almost so that the food stayed in place and slid back and forth correctly.  I did manage to wedge a piece of swiss down into the mechanism once when I tried to get that one last slice.  It was easy to retrieve, but I felt like an idiot for getting it stuck.  (of course I turned the blade OFF before sticking my hand in there!)

Oops.  Stuck cheese.  Luckily that front part flips toward you for easy retrieval.

As for everything else, it was pretty great.  The blade comes off for easy cleaning, as does the plastic pusher,  and everything else just required a wipe down with a washcloth or sponge.  The cheese left a little film of cheesy goodness on everything, but unless you let it dry on there, I don't see it being an issue to wipe off.  All in all, it outperformed my expectations.  I half expected it not to cut through cheese without leaving a mangled mess.  I am sure it works better on harder cheeses than the softer ones I tested it on, so I am glad to report even the softer ones held up pretty well.

My main motive was to save money by slicing my own lunch meat and cheese with this machine (and make it myself since I am not allowed to have deli food during pregnancy.  Stupid food-borne illness).  At $55 it will take a while to pay for itself, but the simplicity of the design makes other kitchen slicing tasks less of a bear and much faster, so it was totally worth it.  And then of course there is its inherent coolness.  I mean, who doesn't want to use a power tool?  As Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor would say, "More power!"  Oh, and grunt grunt.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bassinet sheet, envelope style

As promised, I am finally posting about the bassinet sheet I made.  I posted 2 weeks ago about how to make a fitted sheet style cover, but I wanted to explain the "other" style that I made that more closely mimicked the sheet that came with the bassinet (the instructions below will make you an Arm's Reach Mini Cosleeper Bassinet sheet, sold at target for $15 each... for an ugly tan one.).  While there is nothing wrong with the fitted sheet style, I kind of wanted to do this just to prove I could. I could. :-)

For starters, I don't really know when I would recommend this over the fitted sheet style, unless you have a really thin or flexible mattress or pad that you need to cover, or you need something that doesn't gather on the bottom.  Gathered fabric can create unwanted bulk.  This style ends up more like an envelope, hugging the edges, rather than a bag that wraps itself around the mattress.  Thus, you would get less distortion of the pad/item if it is really easily pulled out of shape, and a lot less bulk on the bottom.  However, since it is like an envelope, just as with the mail, anything too thick will not fit well.  Think of that 20 page letter you wrote your long distance boyfriend that one time and tried to cram into the standard envelope size... it gets all bulgy and wont fit.  Not to mention the post office wont mail it since its too heavy and the boy wont read it because he is totally over your obsessive correspondence.  Ok, maybe that was just me. :-)

This design is really simple, although it is a little more complex to conceptualize than the fitted sheet style.  I actually think it is LESS work, but it does take a little figuring out, and it requires a little more fabric.

To begin, cut two pieces of fabric the same size as the top of the mattress, plus a little for finishing the edges (5/8" is standard for seam allowances, but adding an inch to each measurement is much easier than 1 1/4", then just use a 1/2" seam allowance.)  For the Arm's Reach Mini Cosleeper (my project) I used a piece 34"x20".

Take one piece and fold it in quarters.  Next, we will cut a rounded rectangle out of the middle of it.  You should leave a few inches (I did 3" for my project) at the top and at the side, then just draw a nice curved line between them.  Keep the lines on the sides straight until you reach the corner, though, so that it stays a rounded rectangle and not a lopsided oval.  You will need to leave a little extra to finish the inside edge, but 1/4" is plenty.  In fact, if you have too much, it will be difficult to get the cover on, so keep it reasonable and don't overthink too much.  Keep in mind, you should be cutting from folded edge to folded edge, not cutting through the raw edges.  This will give you a "donut" shape when you are done.

Google drawings are so much better than paint!  Go hubby!

Open the rectangle back out, and finish the inside edge, either with a narrow hem or with a serger (serging is much easier, but be careful on the curves.  It can be easy to miss the fabric with the stitching so keep an eye on it.)  Next, sew the whole rectangle and the donut rectangle together along the outside edge, with right sides together.  Again, I used a serger, but you can just make two lines of stitching, one on the seam allowance and one about 1/4" closer to the raw edge.  Then trim the seam allowance close to the stitching.  Your basic shape is now there!  Its that simple!

I ran a little elastic around the curved parts to make it fit more snugly.  As with the other style mattress cover, just use your judgement on the amount of elastic needed.  I took an approximate measurement of the curve, reduced the measurement by 1/3, and cut the elastic.  To add the elastic, pin the ends to the wrong side of the fabric.  Find the center of the elastic and the center of the curve.  Pin the centers together.  You can continue to find centers and match them as you desire, but you shouldn't need more than 5 pins.

5 pins is all you should need to make sure the fullness is distributed evenly over the elastic.

As you stitch, stretch the elastic to fit the curve.  Repeat this for the other end, and voila!  You have a cover!

Put the needle down to hold the fabric and elastic in place before you stretch it or it will pop out from under the presser foot!
Pull the elastic taut as you stitch to make sure you are keeping the fullness evenly distributed.
after stitching
Finished item!

I want to again stress that this wont work for standard depth mattresses as this design does not account for depth in its measurements.  I wouldn't recommend trying to use it for anything thicker than about 1 1/2"-2" deep.  It will end up ill-fitting and hard to get on.  However, the bassinet mattress and changing table pad are only about an inch thick, so this is really perfect.  I plan to make a bassinet mattress pad like this to make it a little softer for baby, too.  This design is ideal for covering without adding any bulk.  If you notice, the sides and back of the cover are really streamlined and there is no gathering or bunching like there is for the fitted sheet style cover.  Although its a little trickier to get on, the lack of bulk could be a big win.

Bottom line:
1 yard of fabric @ $5/yd = $5
scrap elastic = negligible

Time estimate = less than an hour

Retail cost = $15
Total cost to make = $5

Savings = $10  YAY!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wet Bag research

Diapers.  The inevitable, hated part of child-rearing.  You show someone an adorable infant, complete with drooly grin, tiny baby hands, and that "new baby" smell, and at some point someone will mention, "yeah, but I'm not changing it..."

Hubby and I have decided we would like to cloth diaper.  I haven't yet settled on a brand or style of cloth diaper (mostly because its such a huge financial investment and I demand perfection in every product I buy - a completely unrealistic goal), so I am focusing on the diaper pail/wet bag thing for now.

A friend of mine cloth diapered, but when she was out and about with baby, she used disposables.  Totally understandable.  But for me, who goes out only rarely, and even then only short trips to the grandparents for dinner, church on Sunday, or to the grocery store, I would like to try bringing cloth diapers with me.  For longer trips (a full day/many days) without access to a washer and an easy diaper storage solution, I think I may just murder the environment a little, but for those quick couple-of-hour trips to visit a friend or do a little shopping, I would like to give it a good try.  Of course, this begs the question "What the heck am I supposed to do with a few hours worth of dirty diapers that I can't just toss in the garbage?"  The answer?  Wet bags.

Wet bags are waterproof bags with a zipper or drawstring opening that go in a diaper bag and hold all the messies.  The idea is that they 1) contain wetness, 2) contain odor, and 3) are roomy enough to hold a few diapers, but small enough to be portable.  Some have other bells and whistles like hanging straps to snap to a stroller or something, extra pouches for dry items, either zippered or mesh, coordinating paci carriers and other accessories, a zippered bottom for easy emptying into a washer (especially for larger ones that would be sent to daycare or something), the list goes on and on.

In the course of my research, I found that my favorites fell into two distinct categories: 

1) The smallish bags that could hold about 4 diapers and tucked easily into a diaper bag.  They had things like pouches for clean diapers, wipes, a changing pad, and butt cream so it could be an all in one diaper solution, and straps to wrap around a wrist or stroller handle.  They had one opening only and could be either a zipper or a drawstring (usually elastic) and toggle.  I saw this as the ultimate solution for my travel dilemma, as well as an easy alternative to a whole diaper bag for outings where less is more, like theme parks or zoos.  This could easily get tossed into my purse and keep everything I needed for routine changing within easy reach.

2) The oversized bags that were often marketed as diaper pail liners, if not diaper pail alternatives.  They hold 20 some diapers (often even more), usually have two openings, one at the top for putting them in, and a large opening at the bottom for dumping them into the wash, and have handles or hangers to loop over a doorknob, dresser drawer knob, or some other furniture item.  They are somewhat wider than they are long so they hang at about waist height and don't hit the ground, but still have a large enough volume for about 2 days worth of diapers.  They tended to have more zipper openings than drawstrings as the drawstrings cinch closed too tightly when the bag is full and heavy (assuming it is hung by the drawstring).  Some had open tops that just had elastic around it to keep it from flopping open or to keep it snug in a diaper pail as a liner.  I saw this as my ideal nursery dirty diaper storage solution. I have been hating all the diaper pails I have seen because they are not designed for cloth and often have expensive, non biodegradable liners.  The wet bags can be tossed in to the wash along with the diapers (to avoid touching them again - ick) and offer a simpler, cheaper solution to handling those diapers.  Of course, being eco friendly is super important to me, but I am a cheapskate at heart.  After all, that is what this whole blog is about, right? :-)

Both were perfect to suit my needs, albeit very different needs.  There are certain challenges I need to overcome before I endeavor to make them, though.  (Sorry, I appear to be a fan of numbered lists today):

1) How to make them definitively waterproof.  
Even commercial bags often have complaints about leakage.  Some can be chalked up to leaving liquid in the bag, which it isn't always designed to do.  For example, zippers are not made of waterproof material and may leak, and a drawstring closure may not be tight enough to keep in moisture.  I'd like to make mine leakproof enough to hold rinsed poopy diapers, but not necessarily able to hold water.  Many bags reinforce/enclose seams to prevent leaking and wicking.  I think this is a good strategy.

2) What kind of material to use.
PUL is the obvious choice, but even that leaves some wiggle room.  I have some from a local fabric store, but I have read time and again that this is not "real" PUL.  Also, nylon, polyester, and a few other materials were commonly used.  Some bags had a waterproof inner liner and a soft, pretty outer shell.  This would be good for adding pockets, which may wick moisture if sewn into the same side seams, but also makes the items much more time and materials intensive.  Not sure how to tackle that.

3) Which bells and whistles to include and which to leave off.
I liked the idea of a pocket on the small bag, but maybe I will only make one with pocket(s).  I initially thought of this as something to toss into the larger diaper bag, which would make the extra pocket redundant.  However, as a grab and go mini-diaper bag, it would be handy storage.  I also kind of want a snap strap, but I can't for the life of me think why it would be useful since I wouldn't dangle this from my stroller.  Ever.  But the appeal is there... Also, how to make the large bag hang is a concern of mine.  I don't have a lot of nursery furniture (or space) and while I want it to be easy to access, I don't want it in the way on the front of a drawer or something.  On the door is too far away - I'd have to leave baby alone on the changing table and walk across the room to the door.  Unacceptable...  This may take some real thought.  Or a freestanding structure to hold it, similar to a hamper.  Hmmm...

4) What kind of closure(s) to use.
I am pretty much sold on the zippered small bags, but the large bags have me in a tizzy.  The large bags sometimes had no closure at the top  to ease the dropping in of diapers.  I heard that open bags work well for cloth diapering, but I am hesitant to actually try it after being in my friend's nursery which smells like ammonia.  Maybe a drawstring top?  But then putting diapers in will take 2 hands... I think I will have to invent a solution.  Maybe an "open" top that overlaps to prevent airflow but is easy to drop in dirties?  This also may discourage curious toddler hands from pulling out diapers later on...

At any rate, there are lots of things to think about, but I do believe this will be my next major project.  

Also coming up will be some reusable nursing pads.  I think I started leaking yesterday!  Its crazy and weird and embarrassing, but exciting at the same time.  I had a wet spot on my tee shirt right where my right nipple hit when I got up from spooning hubby.  I wasn't wearing a bra because we were just playing video games in the living room on the fold out couch bed, avoiding the rest of the world for Labor day, and there it was, a small dot of moisture.  Its possible it came from somewhere else, but as I was spooning him, I can't imagine how.  My grandmother likes to tell stories about how she sprayed milk in the shower when pregnant and nursing my father.  (She jokes that she didn't know it was unusual since it was her first child.)  I suppose that means I have a genetic predisposition to leakage.  If there is such a thing (genetic predisposition I mean, not leakage).  Using Nana's method of cutting up maxi pads to stuff in a bra doesn't appeal to me, so I will figure out how to make some.  I'm sure I can double up that research with making diaper soakers as the principle is much the same - soak up liquid with as little thickness as possible to do the job.  Look forward to that...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bassinet/crib sheets and changing table covers

I finally did it!  I completed my first baby project(s)!  Hooray!  My husband is on a man's camping trip this week which left me with a wide open schedule - no making dinners for him, no extra dishes to wash, no real need to make the bed (hehe oops - my laziness kicked in, I'll admit).  So, I ended up with lots of time to focus, which is critical when doing something I have never attempted before, and so, the baby projects began!

A few months ago I bought a used crib on Craigslist that has an attached changing table, similar to this:

Since the changing table is only as long as the crib is wide, it is a nonstandard size.  It came with the changing table pad, but the seller had lost the cover, so I was SOL.  I decided to make them myself.

We also bought an Arm's Reach Mini Bassinet/Cosleeper. (craigslist too, of course.)

This nifty little contraption looks and folds up like a small pack n play, and can be used with both sides up as a stand alone bassinet (travel anyone?) or with one side down strapped to your bed for a safe way to cosleep with your baby without losing space in your own bed, a necessity for us since we only have a full and I already fight for space at night!  However, the little sheets are really expensive at about $15 at target, and only come in boring colors like neutral and tan.  Ick.  Other people recommended using a king sized pillow case and then tucking in the long ends under the foot of the mattress, but I was less than enthusiastic about this half-cocked approach (which likely wouldn't get me a cute design, either).  So, I decided to make them myself.

At first I thought I would use the same basic "pattern" for both - make it like a fitted sheet.  However, after looking at the construction of the existing sheet for the cosleeper (thank goodness it came with at least the one), I decided to mimic that approach for it, and then do a normal "fitted sheet" thing for the changing table covers.  As usual, I neglected to take pictures during construction.  I will get better about that, I promise!

Usually when I decide to make something out of the blue, the project is much more complicated that I think and I somewhat regret it by the end.  This was NOT one of those projects.  It is just as easy and quick as it looks.  Hooray!

For this post I will focus on the "fitted sheet" pattern.  I will post the other when I make the second one so I can show photos... Otherwise its just too hard to explain.  Note that this "pattern" can be used to cover anything that is rectangular, so a crib sheet, a table cover, a seat cover, just about anything is fair game.

To begin, measure the item you are covering.  I will just refer to this as the mattress since that is what I used.  The top of my mattress was 22"x28".  Then measure the depth of the mattress.  Mine was about 1" deep.  Since the cover has to reach all the way around the mattress, add the depth times 2 to the length and width.  This would bring my measurements to 24"x30".  

Please excuse the crappy paint drawn diagram :-)

Next, I added a little bit of length so there was something to wrap around the bottom and "hang on" so the corners wouldn't always slip off.  We have a deep mattress on our bed and my biggest pet peeve is when the fitted sheet says it fits deep mattresses but only rolls over by like half an inch so its constantly popping off in the middle of the night.  ARGH!  So, I made my "cushion" for the backside very ample.  You can use your discretion about this according to the size of the item you are covering, as well as your own personal preference on the overlap needed to make it feel secure.  Keep in mind that a small amount of this extra will be used to finish the raw edge and encase the elastic, so add about 1/2-3/4" to accommodate that.  I decided to go with 3".  So, once again, you add 3" twice to the length and width measurements, bringing my total to 30"x36".  These measurements are the final dimensions of the piece of fabric we will need.  Since the amount of fabric you need will depend on the size of the item you are covering, do these measurements before you buy. :-)  Keep in mind that fabrics come in different widths which can help minimize the amount you will need, but how you cut the rectangle will affect which direction a pattern goes, so be aware; if you don't want stripes going a certain direction, you may need more fabric to accommodate.

Since I bought extra fabric for the Fauxby wraps that ended up not working out, I used some of that for this project.  Cut out your rectangle.  It helps to make multiple chalk marks on the fabric and use a straight edge to connect them and a carpenter's square (or a piece of cardboard with definitely square edges) to check your corners to make sure you are getting a rectangle instead of some other four sided polygon...  Right angles are tricky. :-)  

Next, take each corner and fold it in half, with right sides together (the wrong side of the fabric should be facing you), making a skinny triangle.

Step one
Step two

Add the measurement from the depth of the mattress and the measurement of the extra you added to warp around the back of the mattress.  In my example, it is 4" (1" mattress depth, plus 3" to wrap around).  From the tip of the triangle, mark that far down (4" in my example) on the rough edge of the fabric and stitch straight across the triangle at that line.

It's a little hard to see the stitching line, but it goes straight through the giraffe.

Zig zag or stitch close to your stitching line.  Trim the excess fabric above/outside the stitching line (closer to the tip of the triangle).  Alternately, use a serger instead of a sewing machine to stitch the line.  It trims for you :-)  Repeat this entire process for each corner.

Trim the excess down to about 1/4" or so.

Next you are ready to make the casing for the elastic.  Either serge the entire raw edge of the fabric, or press up about 1/4" all the way around.  Fold up the fabric by about 3/8-1/2" to create a casing for the elastic.  How much you press up will depend on the width of elastic you use.  It should be pretty thin, about 1/8-3/8", depending on the size of your project, but it is really up to you.  I used 1/4" elastic and pressed up about 1/2" and my casing was plenty wide.  Stitch the casing, leaving a small (1") opening to thread the elastic through.  Using a safety pin, thread the elastic through the casing.  Again, the length that you will need depends on your project size, as well as the elasticity (stretchiness) of your elastic.  I just used a really long piece of elastic and when I had threaded it through, I adjusted the gathers around the mattress to what I wanted and cut the length.  I am not really sure how long the piece was, so just go with what fits well for your project.  Making sure there are no kinks in the elastic, stitch the ends together securely.  Close up the opening in your casing, and you are done!  It should look something like this.

Put it on your mattress/item and revel in your amazingness!

Bottom Line:
Fabric: less than 1 yard @ $5/yd = $5
Elastic: less than 1 roll @ ~$2/roll = $2 (honestly, I used scrap materials from an old project so I hate adding this to my total cost.  I have had it for YEARS and not used it...)
Total cost = less than $7

Time = about 1 1/2 hours, give or take.

Retail = not available

Savings = well, in this case, priceless... I couldn't buy a changing table cover for this item!

Next up: the OTHER pattern for a bassinet sheet... ohhh ahhh....